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Greek Tragedy Alive: Introduction to Ancient Drama and Performance

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

Drama, tragedy, theater -- these modern terms and concepts have their origins in Ancient Greece, which developed modes of performance that we still enjoy today. Despite the basis of modern theater in antiquity, if we could watch the original performances of Greek tragedy by Aeschylus, Sophocles, or Euripides, the experience would differ greatly from going to see a modern play. What was it like to sit in the Theater of Dionysus in 5th century Athens and see the performance of a tragedy?

In this course, we will re-create, as much as possible, the ancient experience of watching a Greek tragedy performed. We will base our reconstruction primarily on the texts of ancient Greek tragedy, which we will approach as scripts to be acted rather than literature to be read. We will pair the evidence of texts with other information known about ancient performance conventions, such as the use of costume and masks, the lay out of the ancient theater, and the rules for staging. Equipped with these resources, we will make our own conclusions about the performance of this immensely popular and influential art form. At the same time, we will consider what others have concluded about ancient tragedy by way of watching modern adaptations of Greek originals. This course is well suited for those with an interest in Greek tragedy and literature, as well as those interested in theater and performance. The course combines these fields of study and serves as an introduction to both.

In this course, you will develop an awareness of how ancient performance differs from modern performance; you will learn how to make conclusions from primary sources; and you will sharpen your critical reading skills and gain new ones. By the end of this course, you should be able to imagine the performance of plays that you read with greater ease.

There are no prerequisites for the course. All ancient materials will be read in English.